by Gene Turnbow, Station Manager

The full-length trailer for Strange Magic is finally out. It’s sword and sorcery, magic and fairy tails, and the requisite collection of ogres, trolls, and, of course, fairies. There are sight gags, action and adventure, and even some romance. Kind of obsessive, oogy romance, but it’s there.

The new feature film (Lucasfilm’s first fully animated one) stars Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth and Maya Rudolph to this musical comedy adventure romp, and they’re singing not songs written for the movie, but tunes from the last several decades, including Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love, Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger, Heart’s Straight On and Deep Purple’s Mistreated. 

It’s loosely based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set in two fae lands that should never touch held apart by a boundary of flowers from which a powerful love potion can be made. It looks visually scrumptious, and we expect nothing less from Lucasfilm.

Oh, heck. I wish I didn’t have to say this, but if I’m honest, I’ll tell you that the rest of the film looks like the director, Gary Rydstrom, went down a checklist of things he’s seen work in other recent movies and just assembled it from spare parts he had lying around. Self-obsessed, useless dandy with blonde hair, check. Didn’t we see that in Shrek? Bond between sisters that’s thicker than water, check. Ugly monsters who think beautiful is ugly, check. Reluctant troll who doesn’t want to follow the rule about no eating the prisoners, check. The “you should see your face, no wait let me show you” gag, the “nobody’s with me but the crickets” gag we saw in The Princess and the Frog, the addle-headed minion who can’t do anything right gag, it’s all there. Add a sound track made of pop songs from previous decades – hey, it just worked for Guardians of the Galaxy, right?  Except in Guardians, it was a plot point. Here, it isn’t. Rydstrom and Lucas have apparently only thought this show out one layer deep, and while it might be a nice afternoon’s diversion, it might be better as a rental watched at home in May rather than a theatrical viewing in January. I was a lot more impressed with last year’s Epic from Blue Sky Studios, and sadly, this looks and feels a lot like Epic and has some of the same elements in it, but with far fewer original ideas.

I want to say I’m really looking forward to seeing this in the theater, but at this point I’m sticking with a wait-and-see attitude. Maybe the person who edited the trailer just cut together all the hackneyed bits in the film and kept out the best stuff for later. I’m really hoping that’s the case. I hate having to write an article like this one, because I practically worship George Lucas, and I really want this to be good. But to quote another famous Lucas character: “I have a bad feeling about this.”

As announced in Variety, Strange Magic will be released Jan. 23, 2015 through the Touchstone Pictures banner, which is used by Disney to distribute DreamWorks Pictures’ films.

What do you think? Am I being too cynical? Please tell me I am. I really want to be wrong about this.

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